Kommandeering Developers Everywhere

Monday, September 26, 2005

The sound of inevitability

I wish I could write about my rock star weekend, but after a mentally draining work schedule, a weekend of rain and a day-long headache, I can safely file this weekend under the "Fast and Forgettable" category.

So pulling from the Rantomatic9000 device I have (you'll have to imagine the whirring computer beeps and clicks yourself), let's talk about the downfall of the roman empire (aka MS). I know, I know...covered before...but it's Monday morning, you're not going to get 'The Importance of Being Earnest' every post, are you?

If you're not in the mood for a rant, I'd bail here.

The premise is simple: Over time, regardless of the ecosystem, paradigm shifts lead to balance and stability, which leads to another paradigm shift. Whether you're talking about animal populations, governments or businesses; you can always make a case why each circumstance is unique, and they never are. Now, the more competitive and mature the area of interest, the faster the frequency (and I do mean 'frequency' in the wave-length sense - we're talking harmonics people!).

Example: Whereas as a nation may have held power over hundreds if not thousands of years, that time has been whittled down to where the U.S. will have historically been considered unchecked for less than 75 years.

In the world of business, look at the U.S. in the last 150 years. Consider alone such disruptive events such as the automobile, electricity, telecom and maybe even raw materials (industrialization and commoditization of coal/iron/etc).

In each case, the tipping point and eventual ubiquity of a product is done through a single entity (or very small core group of entities). Universality is effectively accomplished through monopoly. A hundred years ago it was Ford, today it's Microsoft. Different sector, same path.

Once a product/service becomes habit (such as the phone or electricity in your wall socket), new groups struggle to climb over the barrier to entry. Is the task of rezoning land, getting permits and stringing thousands of lines of wire different from today's software patents and millions of lines of code? Are the special interest groups and soft money any different? The hurdles thrown out by the leader in an attempt to maintain their place are only stalling tactics.

Eventually, things settle down. The threshold of the barrier to entry is crossed and cottage competitors spring up. Further down the road, in complex endeavours such as writing operating systems or or creating massive distribution networks for automobile assembly, some form of oligopoly emerges. Not ideal, but better. Whether we're talking global economies such as North America/EU/Asia, or businesses such as the Big Three auto makers in the U.S., Coke/Pepsi/RC Cola, McDonalds/Burger King/Wendys, you'll find a majority leader who makes the rules, a strong competitor, and a tertiary entiry. Will Apple fall naturally into the Pepsi/Burger King secondary role? Don't be so quick. They sell hardware and multimedia. The desktop is the end to that means.

So, Napoleon and Alexander the Great couldn't keep power. Ford couldn't keep power. Micrsoft won't keep power. If MS and Intel want to be known as the powers that put a computer on every desk, they'll also have to accept the future that comes with it, and start making room.

Moral of the story? Am I making sweeping generalizations here? Of course, it's a freaking blog. But not as many as you think. I love the sense of urgency in fighting software patents, IP and developing code maturity. Don't stop! But to take a step back and look macroscopically, the railroads tracks are laid and the course of action is set. KDE has to be identified as a participant in the dismantling of yet another monopoly and will gain explosive growth.

We drive different cars on the same roads, talk over different phones on the same network, plug different items into the same wall socket, and purchase different materials of the same grade to manufacture our widgets. Our OS and application situation will be no different.

As long as KDE continues to grow and evolve, we have effective leadership and put in the hours, adoption will explode over time. Whether due to economics in emerging markets, or political factors such as avoidance of U.S. reliance. The U.S. loves to stubbornly make bad decisions and stick with them (see: weight and distance measurements), but when one of our own states bail on proprietary formats, the wheels are definitely in motion.

So sit back, work hard and pat yourself on the back for participating in Nature's Grand Balancing Act.

PS-I promise my next post will be lighthearted. Like my dog biting me or spilling on my keyboard.


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